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Circular Rudyard Lake Walk: Visiting Guide

Circular Rudyard Lake Walk: Visiting Guide

🥾Jump to Route & Map

Discover the charming Rudyard Lake on the border of Cheshire and the Staffordshire Moorlands.

This walk offers relatively flat paths following the water’s edge and a choo-choo train, making it great for the whole family.

So, lace up your boots as we go over everything you need to know before your next visit!

🗺️ Getting to Rudyard Lake

Rudyard Lake is best accessed by car, though public transport is also an option. The 109 bus from Leek to Macclesfield runs every two hours, stopping nearby.

🚘 Parking at Rudyard Lake

There are plenty of parking options around the lake. For this walk, I chose the main station car park, which also has many spots along the roadside.

Alternatively, you can park at the hotel or lakeside parking, which is a bit closer.

Around Rudyard Lake Railway Depot (Free)

Rudyard Lake Railway Depot parking

There are several parking spaces next to the Rudyard Lake Railway Depot, just off the A523.

Additionally, there are spots along the nearby road where many people park on the curb. Just be sure not to block anything.

Around Hotel Rudyard (Paid)

Hotel Rudyard parking lot

This is the closest and largest car park to the reservoir, and it’s a great spot to grab a drink after you walk around the lake, making your parking free.

Note: If you’re starting the walk from here, head down towards the water and cross the dam bridge to the railway line to join the existing route.

Additionally, there is more parking on the northern side of the lake at: Reacliffe Rd, Macclesfield SK11 0RL

📍Rudyard Lake Walk Map & Routes

🟢 Easy | 🚶‍♂️ 8.3 km (5.2 mi) | ⛰️ Total ascent: 91 m (300 ft) | ⏱️ 2-2.5 Hrs

Download file for GPS

The walk heads out from the station and follows the miniature railway line along the eastern side of the water. It curves around the far edge, goes slightly uphill, and traverses woodland paths before ending back at the main visitor areas.

🗺️ Rudyard Lake Walk Step by Step – 8.3km (5.2mi) ~ 2-2.5hr

1. Head out of the car park alongside the miniature railway crossing, following the tracks along the trail.

2. Continue straight as you reach “The Dam” train stop, which marks the start of the circular reservoir walk. Follow the flat, tree-lined route, catching glimpses of the water and boating houses on the left.

the dam train stop along the walk

3. Keep going until you reach the final station, “Hunthouse Wood.” Continue past this station and the scout centre.

Hunthouse Wood with view of rudyard lake

4. You’ll now be reaching the north side of the reservoir, the end of the lakeside. Go under the bridge and turn left at the road once you’re in the car park. The road has a sign that says, “No through-road vehicle access for residents only” – don’t worry, this is a public footpath.

north side of rudyard reservoir

5. Follow the road as it twists and turns until you pass over a cattle grid to reach a large open field.

large open field with road

6. After some distance further along the road, the footpath is signposted into the wooded area.

footpath is signposted into the wooded area

7. From here, the terrain becomes hillier and can get a bit muddy in places. After a short while, you’ll reach the abandoned Cliffe Park Hall, also known as Rudyard Castle, which was formerly part of a golf course.

abandoned Cliffe Park Hall also known as Rudyard Castle

8. The path then leads through Rea Cliffe Woods down to the Rudyard Lake Sailing Club. There’s also a coffee shop here called Mini Beans on the Lake.

Rea Cliffe Woods down to the Rudyard Lake Sailing Club

9. Continue along the road. There are some amazing boathouses along this stretch.

road with boathouses along rudyard lake

Fact: This west-side lake path is part of the Staffordshire Way, a 95-mile route starting from Mow Cop.

10. After the bend, the path leads off the road and into the woods once again until you end up on Lake Road. There are a few paths on the left that lead down to the water’s edge at North Staffordshire Rowing Club, but I decided to take the road next to the Rudyard Hotel.

Lake Road near rudyard hotel

11. Follow the Dam wall and cross the footbridge. You’ll now be back along the miniature steam railway track where you can retrace your steps back to the station.

rudyard lake path along the dam wall

If you enjoyed this walk, the nearby Tittesworth Reservoir offers an equally stunning route, situated just below the Roaches.

🥪 Rudyard Lake Amenities & Facilities

Food & Drink

Picnic Benches

Relax at the picnic benches located near the dam wall, perfect for enjoying a meal with scenic views of the lake. There is also public toilets near by.

Rudyard Hotel

beer garden of rudyard hotel

Visit Rudyard Hotel for a cafe, bar, and restaurant experience, complete with a picturesque beer garden. The hotel also serves roast dinners on Sundays.

Mini Beans on the Lake

Grab a coffee or a light snack at Mini Beans on the Lake, a cosy coffee shop by the western edge of the water.

For more amenities, the closest major town is Leek, just a 10-minute drive away.


mini train at rudyard lake

  • Fishing: Enjoy fishing at Rudyard Lake with no off-season restrictions. Angling is permitted from dawn until dusk, and night fishing is available by prior arrangement with the Ranger.
  • Watersports: Engage in a variety of watersports, including sailing, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding (SUPs). Day launch tickets are available for those bringing their own equipment.
  • Boat Trips and Hire: Take a boat trip or hire a craft to explore the lake. Options include boat hire, canoe, kayak, and SUP rentals, ensuring a fun day on the water.
  • Ride on the miniature railway: The railway features a 10.25-inch gauge, equivalent to a half-size Narrow Gauge, providing an authentic miniature railway experience. Trains run in all weather conditions, and all coaches are covered to ensure comfort. Since 2016, the railway has included locomotives and rolling stock from the former Isle of Mull Railway. Check out the timetable here.

🏰 History & Significance of the area

This serene reservoir, located northwest of Leek, was engineered in the late 18th century with the primary purpose of feeding the Caldon Canal.

Constructed by John Rennie in 1799, the lake was a vital part of the local waterway infrastructure, serving as a reservoir to ensure a steady water supply for the canal system.

Historical Development

The Trent and Mersey Canal company proposed its construction in 1796, with the lake officially formed by an Act of Parliament in March 1797. 

The engineering undertaking is around two miles long and a quarter-mile wide, held back by a 63-foot earth dam faced with stone to prevent erosion. A significant spillway on the eastern side manages overflow, feeding a feeder canal that connects to the Leek Branch.

Victorian Era Popularity

The lake’s historical significance extends beyond its functional purpose. In the 19th century, Rudyard Lake became a beloved destination for day-trippers and tourists.

The arrival of the North Staffordshire Railway in 1846, which acquired the lake and surrounding lands, made the area more accessible. The railway constructed two stations, enhancing connectivity and spurring tourism. The lake quickly became a bustling spot, attracting visitors including John Lockwood Kipling and Alice Macdonald, who famously named their son, Rudyard Kipling, after the lake.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the lake’s popularity soar, with crowds of up to 20,000 people visiting on peak days. 

Cultural Footnote

Rudyard Lake even found its way into pop culture through a memorable episode of BBC’s “Top Gear” in 2006, where presenters competed in a challenge to design the best amphibious car.

The episode added a modern twist to the lake’s long-standing tradition of hosting unique and entertaining activities.

🧐 Visting Rudyard Lake – FAQs

Why can’t you swim in Rudyard Lake?

Swimming is not allowed in Rudyard Lake due to underwater currents, obstructions, and by-laws. Additionally, cold water shock poses a significant risk.

Is Rudyard Lake pram friendly?

Rudyard Lake is partially pram-friendly. The old railway line on the east side is relatively level and suitable for pushchairs.

However, the west side has narrower, uneven paths and is not recommended for prams or wheelchairs.

Can you cycle around Rudyard Lake?

You can cycle on the eastern shore of Rudyard Lake, which follows the old railway track bed.

Cycling is not allowed on the western shore due to the Staffordshire Way’s terrain, which includes farmland, closed gates, and stiles.

Why is it called Rudyard Lake?

Rudyard Lake is named after the nearby village of Rudyard. The name “Rudyard” itself is derived from the Old English words “rudu” (red) and “geard” (enclosure), referring to the red soil and enclosed land in the area.

Can you fish on Rudyard Lake?

Yes, fishing is allowed on Rudyard Lake. Angling is permitted from dawn until dusk, with night fishing available by prior arrangement with the Ranger.

Rudyard Lake has carp, along with other fish species like bream, roach, perch, and pike.

Who owns Rudyard Lake?

Rudyard Lake is owned and managed by Rudyard Lake Ltd.

Was Rudyard Kipling named after Rudyard Lake?

Yes, the famous author Rudyard Kipling was named after Rudyard Lake.

His parents enjoyed a visit to the lake and decided to name their son after it.

Is Rudyard Lake good for dogs?

Yes, Rudyard Lake is generally good for dog walks.

Dogs are allowed on leads in most areas, including the outside seating areas. However, it’s important to keep them under control and close at all times to avoid incidents. Follow common sense and the Countryside Code.